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can you help your own business by turning customers on to your competition? the woman who ran martha stewart's empire on the secrets of selling. and where's the money? we'll tell you about yet another option. that's all coming up next on "your business."
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hi, there, even. i'm j.j. ramberg and welcome to "your business" where we give you tips and advice to help your business grow. a few monost agent we followed a startup company to see what it takes to launch and grow a business. not surprisingly, it takes a lot. in june we introduced you to courtney nickles and gordon. the founders of smarty pants. they provide children's vitamins. when we last met up with them, they had just gotten 3500 pound of packaging and 700,000 vitamins delivered to their home office. they were having issues with their shopping cart and had to delay the launch of their site,
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but they were still optimistic and had plenty of funding. over the past two months they have been dealing with this. >> this is something that you don't think about when you're setting up your home office, which is is your next door neighbor about to start a launch construction project that involves drills and air nail guns and not stopping 24/7, which has been going on for two months. so that's pretty awesome. >> and here with us on the set laughing about that is courtney nickles and gordon gould joining us from california. great to see both of you. it is good to see you are laughing about this. it has not driven you that crazy yet dealing with it? >> i think it is always easy to laugh about it after the fact. i don't know while it was happening. but yeah. >> also, gordon, you are the one still hearing it. >> yeah, nail guns. >> tell me what's going on, you guys.
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courtney, when you started this you talked to me, you had all the assumptions about when you would launch, what would happen, how you are going to go, is everything holding true to the assumptions? >> well, i would say fair to say, like almost every startup that's not the case. and that was, you know, that was a tripping up point for us. when you start moving really fast in a startup you kind of want things to be true that may not be true and you don't pay attention to the details. and the details end up costing you time down the road, but we had technology tripups that held us up for two months that came out of assumptions. it was our own fault wanting things to be true. if we had paid close attention, we would have seen the signs earlier. it's all right, we got through it. >> gorton, talking about assumptions and things you think are going to happen and product changes, some of the feedback you got about the vitamin you distribute is that it looked like there was a lot of sugar on it. how do you deal with that? here's the product you have been working on. you uh take it out to market and then you are getting this kind of negative feedback about it. >> well, people perceive there's
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a lot of sugar on it because there's a sugar coating on it to keep it from sticking together in a big glob. we took that and said, parents are obviously concerned about sugar intake, as are we. we don't recommend people eat a lot of sugar. we created content why we did what we did as opposed to an artificial sweetener oar high fructose corn syrup. wee used it as an opportunity to reach out to the community and engage with them and answer their questions. >> so that's a perfect example of you took something that was -- could have been bad for your economy. i like how you said then you engage with the community because now suddenly you have a dialogue with them. >> that's right. people said it is organic cane sugar. that's a positive instead of a negative message. it is less than a glass of unsweetened apple juice, that's a good thing. but if people didn't give us the feedback, we never would have got the opportunity. now we market it. it is on the front of the bottle, it is on the label. low in sugar, all of that.
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>> so it is out there, you guys are marketing it, everything is working. we are going to see you both hopefully again in a few months to see how you're getting from the initial launch to been out there for a little while. >> that's right. >> thank you so much for coming on the program. we are excited to follow this. >> thanks, j.j. it's one thing to develop a repoire with some of your competitors, but could you ever imagine promoting them or even taking orders for them? one small business owner does all of that and more. she believes entrepreneurs need to open their minds and their hearts to a different way of doing business. >> i think the key is doing the right things for the right reasons and if fact that we really put ourselves out for people. you have to give it back before it is coming back to you. >> john landcaster knows she may not be your typical entrepreneur. she's the owner of the soap and candle carving company carved solutions in burlington,
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vermont. while she spends much of your time marketing her own brand she also sees promoting others as key to the way she does business. >> it is an amazing feeling when you've actually put yourself out there for somebody else and seen something great happen for them. >> lancaster's four-year company counts pottery barn and williams sonoma among their partners. they have even landed in "o" magazine. >> we landed in december and it changed everything to put us on the map and gave us the branding we didn't have. >> that success is something lancaster is more than willing to share with people near and far. >> i think that we all don't succeed despite ourselves. we all have to lean on somebody. and if somebody is not there to open a door for you, to hold your hand, to give you some advice you are not going to grow. >> take david glikman, for example. he's the owner of vermont
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butcher block company. after meeting lancaster he said his business aptly case improved. >> in dawn was not in my life we probably would have struggled more. >> david said, hey, how is the wholesale going. i said, let's go to trade show. come with me. by presenting him to my clients he was able to grow his business. >> since glikman's first trade show, lancaster remained a steady presence in his life and he in hers. >> she's a very generous person and she has been very generous with her advice. >> the world is big enough for all of us. and the stronger i make a presence for him the stronger he makes a presence for me. >> landcaster admits their relationship works because they are not making the same products. >> if you were in the market for a butcher block, you are not in the market for soap. if you are in the market for soap you are not in the market for butcher block. >> but what if you are looking for soap?
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landcaster's response may surprise you. she own knows others with the same product. >> there's enough to go around. if we are all growing we are going to be successful. if you horde something to yourself it is not going to help anyone. meet ellen. she's one of landcaster's closest friends. and yes, she's also a competitor. >> we both do personalized soap. >> while her company sweet soaps based in new jersey sells a different kind of soap, both women are targeting some of the same dollars. the pair believes their relationship tran sends business. it is something a bit more personal. >> she's a very good friend. i trust her personally and professionally. we have the same problems, we know the same people, you know, possibly the same customers. >> despite that overlap, both women have no qualms about publicizing each other's businesses. they both promote each other on twitter and even at something as
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simple as a phone call with a perspective buyer. >> i have customers to call me and say, hey, i need new product in my store, i don't have time to go to trade shows and i have relationships with people like dawn where i will just pass their name and their website along. >> landcaster has taken orders for cagnasolla's company. >> a customer called in needed a specific soap and they needed a specific price point and a specific experience. i said, hey, we can do a sweet soaps line. >> she sent me an e-mail and said, give me a price for 400 bars of logo soap. i gave her the price and made the soap. >> while the pair's working relationship could be puzzling to some -- >> typically it comes from somebody outside the industry and is aware what we are doing. you are promoting your competitor. >> both women say the back and forth is actually good business. >> technically my job is customer satisfaction. that customer has to walk away
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having received exactly what it was they were looking for. >> it shows you have more value to your customer that i'm not just this one-trip pony that i do this one thing all day long. >> more than anything else, landcaster, glickman and capisolla learn you can learn from others. >> if you close yourself off from your competitors, you are not going to be able to grow and they will not be able to grow. >> it is not all about competition, it is about cooperation. it is about -- when one person succeeds, a lot more people succeed. >> there's this new sort of concept of business being gentler and friendlier. >> for landcaster, paying it forward has become a business model of sorts. one that's paying off in all sorts of ways. >> if you're not going to open the door, don't expect something else to help you. we love doing that for each other. hugs are great.
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they are priceless. it still seems a little complicated to actually promote a competitor. so let's turn to this week's board of directors to get their opinion. rod kurtz is the executive editor of aol small business. and steve strause is the small business columnist at "usa today." you can read his blog at and you can read stuff on aol small business. >> i think you owe me a story. we'll talk about that after the show. >> you guys are a team. >> let's hear what you think about this. it is tricky and sounds like they have different price points, but the market for personalized soap is not enormous. so it is interesting that they are promoting each other. what do you think about that? >> when my first business was started back when i was a lawyer, i had a friend, an associate lawyer, he gave me so much help when i started. he was doing it a couple years, he gave me legal and business
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advice. i said, dave, aren't you worried i'll take business from you. he said what we saw in the piece, steve, there's more than enough business for everybody. and a little light bulb went off in my head, that's a great philosophy. it was very true. i had more business than i needed, he did too. over the years i'm sure all of us share ideas and references. it works. >> the idea is presumably if you were too busy you would refer to him and vice versa. what comes around goes around. >> you see this with doctors. the partnerships are the rising tide lifts all boats because there's enough to go around. when i came to aol to relaunch aol small business and looking into partnerships to pursue, i felt it felt very entrepreneurial. it was refreshing to work with people you like. one of the reasons i like doing the show is it is great working with your team. it benefits both of us. a lot of entrepreneurs see this. there's enough business to go around. if there's the authenticity
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behind it it can work great. >> this is all great and nice. it is great to promote competitors. realistically, when you are starting out there and dying for one customer, ten customers, whatever it is going to take -- >> that's a challenging time to do it. but i also think it helps create good will all the way around. you mentioned referrals, so you are giving referrals and also getting referrals. that's the secret to this whole thing. >> thank you, you guys. nice conversation. what happens when you combine high-end fashion, heart-stopping bargains and competitive shopping? you get the ecommerce juggernaut which tripled revenues in just one year. the ceo of the guilt group is suzanne lime. the former president of nbc's disney entertainment and the ceo of martha stewart living on the media. lime sat down with us on sharing her views on how to succeed in business.
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>> i know this is going to sound strange, but getting fired from abc actually turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me because i had gone through a charmed professional life where i went from one job to another just because somebody picked up the phone and said, will you do this and i thought, that's interesting. i think i will. and to finally have some time where i could step back and i could look at what was happening and the media landscape as a whole and in the marketplace as a whole, and to think about what i wanted to do as opposed to what someone else wanted me to do was hugely valuable. one of the things i do that i have actually found is highly useful is to have office hours. and what i mean by that is that anyone in the entire company can book a half hour with me once a
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week. i open a two-hour block of time and i encourage any employee at any level of our business to book a half hour with me. and it gives me the ability to understand many parts of our business that i might not be able to spend time in but more importantly i get a sense of what the mood of the company is. and it's been a fantastically valuable tool. i think one of the mistakes people make often is to keep your head down too much, to be looking so much at your own business that you're not seeing the shifts that are taking place. and it is just fascinating to me when i look at the marketplace i'm in, which is a combination of internet and retail, and if you think back five years, it was a completely different landscape. there was no facebook, so there was really no social shopping,
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or for that matter, social communication. that's been a transformative thing. and there are plenty of businesses cut short by it. the minute you say this is what i do and thus it will be forever is when i think a company starts dying. you have to always be able to step back and say, okay, is there something more here. what am i not seeing? or has the market changed in the year since i last did this exercise. where are the new opportunities. and constantly rethink what it is that you're actually offering to people. there are always market shifts that are going to change what your business is. still to come, we answer your business questions, including one about how to regain the respective staff and clients when you've made an error in judgment.
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and in today's where's the money, how lending networks might be the answer to your funding needs. [trumpet playing "reveille" throughout]
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reviving the economy means reinventing the way we do business. here's to the owners showing us the way. [trumpet playing "reveille" fades to silence] we get e-mail from our viewers all of the time asking, where can i find money for my small business? well, in this week's where's the money a look at one avenue openers should be checking out. peer to peer lending sites. >> i decided to get a lope for two reasons. one, to provide a safety net for me to expand my business. two, i want to establish a lending history with i stallment
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loans so in the future banks will lend me greater amounts than i'm asking right now. >> greg needed a $20,000 loan to grow his web development company luckyapps, and he got the money, but he borrowed the money from 50 strangers whose names he doesn't even know. >> on average we have 100 lenders to fund each loan. >> john donovan is the chief officer of here's how it works. a borrower fills out an application and the lending company looks at his credit information. then anyone can decide to lend the borrower money. >> depending on how fast you type, it would take five to ten minutes to get your loan listing out there. then you have the two-week time period where the loan is live. >> donovan says 90% of loans that make it onto the platform get funded by people like carl.
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>> i look at the fica score range to make sure it is a viable risk from the financial perspective. i look at the income ratio for the same reason. i also look, again, for sort of a narrative of what they are looking to do with the money, which gives me the thought process of what kind of business they are looking to start. >> borrowers are looking for capital projects ranging from buying new equipment to leveling out cash flow. he says the money he got made all the difference to his company and he's grateful for the chance the lenders took on him. >> as people to people lending there's an element there that i think will be important in this new economy. as an entrepreneur you may feel that it is just easier to do everything yourself. but look, in the long run that is generally not the most effective way to run your business. so here are five things to think about delegating. number one, accounting. unless you have a financial background, consider delegating
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these responsibilities to a qualified employee or bookkeeper. two, i.t. you may have a handle on basic computer issues, but you should have an i.t. professional on-call for series problems. three, social media. this is another task that could be tempting to handle by yourself, but effective social media campaigns require more than just a few minutes here and there. four, h.r. you may be the one doing the interviewing and hiring, but leave the training of new employees to your staff. and number five, meetings. try to limit yourself to the most important meetings and have trusted members of your staff bring you up to speed on the routine ones. it is time now to answer some of your business questions. ron and steve are back with us again. the first one is from shelly, she writes --
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>> tough. >> the good news is you can always aspire to them. >> then you have to start all over though. >> no, i think it -- we talk about this a lot. i think there's an aspect of business where you have to be genuine. i was a political science major and with nixon and everyone else it was not the crime it was the cover-up. if you come clean and admit your mistakes, initially if you have enough genuine people on your staff that kind of buy into the broader mission of the company, they are going to say, i respect you for being a little humble even as the ceo or the boss and they might respond quite well to it. >> i think as well, it is kind of like being a parent. you have to set parameters and you may make a mistake, but everyone needs to know you are the boss. literally know you're the boss. i agree, maybe you made a mistake, but then from then onset an example and let everyone know that, okay, on we go. that was before and this is now. >> we all make mistakes. >> right. then you have a conversation individually with people if they are doing something not listening to you where you step in and say i'm the boss. >> exactly. you are running a business, you
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are not being there their friend, tlur to be their employer. you are paying them income. that carries something. that's www.something. >> moving on to the nest one. this is a question from the owner of a company with 50 employees. >> what should we expect as managers to be the greatest challenges to grow our business from 50 employees to above 100 employees? and do you have advice on overcoming those challenges. >> here's the good news. going from 5 to 50 is a lot harder than 50 to 100. that said, they there are definite growing pains wlichlt you worried about growing employees. i hear him talking about revenue and what the employees are going to do for him, but the scary part is when you start bringing on all the new people. you may not know a lot of them very well at this point and things seem to spiral out of control. when you have five employees you know everything that goes on. then you have to delegate. >> how do you retain the culture
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of your company? >> that's exactly what i was going to say. the issue is every small business as a control. most by default, some by design. you want culture by design. as you bling in new people the culture is necessarily going to change. and your job as a manager and owner is to have a vision, let the new people know what the vision is and to the extent possible keep that familiar. because as you get bigger it gets more corporate. >> this is from the owner of a company that launched a new product but spent most of the money on research and zwomt. development. >> we have limited resources and we need the quickest and most direct way to get into the market. >> so the product is this new low-fat beef patty. a food product. >> the great news is there are all sorts of shoe string marketing ideas to use. in this case it is bringing in a commissioned salesperson. you are not going to pay that person until he sells something or maybe it is smiling and
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dialing or hitting the concrete yourself. it is going to take -- if you don't have the money, it will take energy. it will take one or the other. if you don't have the cash, someone has to put a lot of energy out to get the word out there and get real estate into your store shelves. >> you want to go to somebody with experience and contact that is you may not have. hopefully after all this r&d, all the spending on it, they have the good product and the product can sell itself. >> is it easy to get someone to work just on commission? >> it is not easy, but there are a lot of people looking for work. there are a lot of great sales people looking for work. if you have a good structure where they can make money down the road -- >> that's the upside of the economy. >> for better for worse. with the food industry, i have seen a lot of companies break into whole foods and some of the markets and bigger chains just based on their story. entrepreneurs have great stories to tell. >> then you can do sampling to get the customers. this is from rob. he writes -- you guys laugh.
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i must say, i had this same question recently. >> i was telling steve i grew up in a family business. i kid you not, in the early days of computers i remember my dad coming home with the giant cassette tape that were the backup of all the data. the same holds true now. keep it in two places. whether it is physically a different space, like mozy or others to back it up online. keep it separate. >> that's a good idea. a backup online and another in another area. >> 25% of all small businesses after some sort of disaster, whether it is losing data or a flood, don't reopen. so you don't want to just back up the data. have physical copies of the moe important files, customer lists, maybe vendor lists, all that kind of stuff. you make copies of those wherever your extra safe place is. >> where's the extra safe place? >> why not at home. >> i keep it in my sock drawer. i keep it in a separate place
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because if something happens to it -- >> it used to be people kept cash under their mats re. >> now it is your disk. >> thank you, guys. we appreciate it. if you have a question for your experts, just go to our website. the address is there just hit the ask the show link to submit a question for the panel. again, the website is or if you would like, e-mail us your questions or comments. the address is how much do you know about the people who visit your company's home page? if the answer is not much, then you may want to check out our website of the week. provides form building services that enable you to collect data online. the site offers templates for tasks like lead generation management, customer surveys and even job applications. the site offers a free trial allowing you to test three forms
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at a time. to learn more about today's show, just click on our website. it is you'll find all of today's segments plus web exussive content with information to help your business grow. don't forget to become a fan of the show on facebook. we look forward to getting some of your feedback. you can also follow us on twitter@msnbcyourbiz. and part of your education in america, we'll tell you about a program where budding entrepreneurs are getting an education and turning it into cash. >> we are really going to be with you every step of the way helping you to get that business up and running. and if that business is not the one that you should get up and running, we'll help you switch to a different business. we'll help you figure it out. >> we'll take you to detroit to find out how one nonprofit is trying to help small business and revisitize the city. until then, i'm j.j. ramberg. remember, we make your business our business.
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